This Public Agenda/USA TODAY Hidden Common Ground survey, which is also part of Public Agenda’s ongoing series of Yankelovich Democracy Monitor surveys, was fielded in May 2021. The research updates and expands on findings from Public Agenda’s two previous Yankelovich Democracy Monitor surveys, published in 2019 and 2020. Findings include:

  1. Most Americans think our democracy is in trouble. Half of Americans think we need to change the political system, while half think we simply need to elect the right leaders.
  2. Americans across the political spectrum view elected officials’ disregard for the public and the influence of special interests as major obstacles to a responsive, healthy democracy in which people have a voice in the decisions that affect their lives.
  3. To build a healthier democracy, Americans across partisan lines emphasize responsive government, fair and secure elections, unifying leadership, and accurate news and information. Americans are united in believing that elections can be both secure and accessible and that the federal government should make sure voting is simple, convenient and hassle-free for every person in every state.
  4. Many Americans want ways to participate in democracy beyond voting. They want their local governments to create opportunities for them to deliberate, make decisions, and collaborate with elected officials. Americans say they would be more likely to get involved in public affairs if they could exercise real power, build common ground, and if decision-making processes were user-friendly. More people want government to work with communities rather than want it to get out of the way.
  5. Americans of different partisan affiliations disagree on whether racism is a barrier to political participation and on whether addressing racism requires systemic change. Republicans’ views on these questions stand in contrast to those of Democrats, Independents and unaffiliated Americans; differences by racial identification are more modest.  

The report concludes with reflections on the findings and implications for moving towards a less divisive, more collaborative, and healthier democracy.